In July 2013, the Illinois General Assembly passed the Firearm Concealed Carry Act (FCCA) that allowed, for the first time, licensed carry of concealed firearms in the State of Illinois. The FCCA is now known as Illinois code 430 ILCS 66.
Military personnel and their family members of legal age assigned to a permanent duty station in Illinois often want to exercise their right to bear arms in order to protect their own lives and the lives of their families. This primer was written to explain some of the issues unique to military members living within this state.
This primer should not be construed as legal advice. You are strongly encouraged to review the general requirements, the statute, and the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) posted on the official Illinois State Police (ISP) web site at https://ispfsb.com. Additional questions should be posed to the ISP or to your attorney.
Any person desiring to carry a concealable firearm within Illinois must hold a Concealed Carry License (CCL) issued by the state. CCLs are not treated like driver’s licenses, so even if you have a CCL or equivalent license or permit (hereafter referred to as a “license”) from your own state, it will not be recognized or reciprocated. Unlike the laws in many other states, The FCCA does not contain a provision to allow the state government to enter into agreements with other states to recognize or reciprocate concealed carry licenses..
Residents of Illinois and of four other states (Virginia, Texas, Mississippi, and Arkansas), who are 21 years of age or older, may obtain a license by following the process outlined on the ‘ispfsb’ web site. (Note that prior to Feb 2017, this list consisted of Virginia, Hawaii, South Carolina, and New Mexico.) The application includes verification that you meet the basic qualifications, 16 hours of required training, a passport-style photo, copy of your driver’s license or state identification card, and payment of a fee ($150 for residents and $300 for non-residents). Residents must also provide a copy of their Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card. Non-resident applicants must provide a signed and notarized affidavit and a copy of a carry license from their home state. Applications are submitted through Illinois’ online portal, which can be accessed through the ISP website, or by calling the ISP to complete a paper-based application.
Current and former military members qualify for an 8-hour credit toward the 16-hour training requirement. To obtain the credit, active duty members need to show proof of current service. An active duty military ID, letter from your commander, copy of orders (with your social security number redacted), or a Proof of Service letter obtained from the “Virtual MPF” will suffice. Please note that your DoD ID card number may be recorded, but an instructor cannot legally photocopy your ID. Veterans must show a DD Form 214 as proof of prior service to obtain the 8-hour credit.
A person who has established Illinois as their permanent domicile, as evidenced by possession of an Illinois State Driver’s License (DL) or an Illinois State Identification card, meets the residency requirement to obtain a Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card and a Concealed Carry License (CCL).
Without an IL DL or IL State ID card, military personnel and their family members are classified as non-residents. Note that you cannot maintain a DL from both Illinois and your home state. The Illinois Department of Motor Vehicles will not issue a DL or State ID without surrendering your old DL or ID. You and your dependents should review the laws of the state in which you claim residency to ensure your driver’s licenses remain valid and current while living away from your state.
In accordance with the Servicemen’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and the Military Spouses Relief Act (MSRA), you are not required to change your legal residency (often called your “permanent domicile”) to your assigned state when you move on Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders. Questions regarding residency should be directed to an attorney in your installation’s judge advocate general’s office.
As mentioned above, Illinois does not offer “reciprocity” or “recognition” of concealed carry licenses with any other state. In other words, to carry a concealed firearm in Illinois, you must hold an IL CCL. (An exception for carrying in a vehicle is discussed below.)
A small number of non-residents may apply for an IL CCL if they are legal residents of one of the four states deemed “substantially similar”: Virginia, Texas, Mississippi, and Arkansas. Residents of these states must also possess a current concealed carry license from their state. Unfortunately, residents of the remaining 45 states, US territories, and D.C. are prohibited from applying for an IL CCL. There are no exceptions that allow military personnel or spouses who maintain residency in one of the unapproved states to apply.
Several bills have been introduced to the Illinois General Assembly over the past 3+ years that address non-resident concealed carry, including several specifically written for military members. Additionally, the Second Amendment Foundation filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Oct 2014 against the state on behalf of its nonresident members, Illinois Carry, the Illinois State Rifle Association, and 10 individual plaintiffs (including a military member), citing denial of rights guaranteed under the United States Constitution. There have also been efforts in the U.S. Congress to establish a form of national reciprocity that will require all other states to recognize a concealed carry license in a similar manner to a driver’s license. None have yet made it through the Senate.
Hopefully these actions will eventually allow non-resident military members to carry a concealed firearm in Illinois. It is important to recognize that these things take time, and there is a chance you may not personally benefit from these efforts during your military tour in Illinois. You are strongly encouraged to get involved in helping to fix these issues whenever you can, however, since those who follow you are likely to share the right to bear arms alongside their friends and neighbors. Please consider becoming a supporting member of Illinois Carry (http://illinoiscarry.com) and join the Second Amendment Foundation (http://saf.org), the Illinois State Rifle Association (http://www.isra.org), and the National Rifle Association (http://nra.org). Please write to the local state representatives and senators for the district you are stationed in (even if you don’t vote here). Many representatives, predominantly downstate, tend to be pro-military and supportive of Second Amendment issues.
For a detailed review of the current progress on addressing nonresident licensing, including those focused on allowing military member licensing, please visit this link.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which oversees hunting activities in the state, provides a brochure summarizing firearm transportation procedures on their website at https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/hunting/Documents/TransportYourFirearmLegally.pdf. Individuals not authorized to carry a concealed firearm in Illinois, or in their state of residence, must follow these published guidelines for transporting a firearm.
Residents with an Illinois CCL, and non-residents who are allowed to carry in their home state, may carry a concealed handgun in a vehicle within the state of Illinois as authorized in 430 ILCS 66, Section 40(e). Your state of residence must have issued you a concealed firearm license, where available, or otherwise allow you to conceal carry without one. This provision does not apply to nonresidents who only possess a concealed firearms license from a state other than their legal residence.
The vehicle carry provision in 430 ILCS 66 provides “safe passage” when driving through the state, but it also allows nonresidents who occupy a home in Illinois (such as military members and their dependents) to protect themselves in their vehicle. There are a couple of important caveats:
– You may store the handgun (loaded or unloaded) in your vehicle once you exit as long as it is placed in a case. Either the case or the car must be locked to prevent unauthorized access. A case can be a “glove compartment or console that completely encloses the concealed firearm or ammunition, the trunk of the vehicle, or a firearm carrying box, shipping box, or other container.”
– If you need to store it in the trunk, exit your vehicle and walk directly to the trunk. Discreetly remove it and place the firearm in a case in your trunk. This procedure is addressed in 430 ILCS 66, Section 65. Prior to July 2015, the handgun had to be unloaded before exiting to store it; Senate Bill 0836 removed that requirement in the interest of safety.
– It is a violation of Federal law to carry or transport a firearm on a military installation unless traveling directly to or from your on-base residence, the armory, the firearms counter at the Base Exchange, or an authorized use location such as a hunting area or firing range (where available). Additionally, firearms must be registered with Security Forces or the Military Police, and must be unloaded and locked out of reach, in a case, and separated from your ammunition when transporting. Don’t make any stops with a firearm in your car, and let the security guard know when you arrive that you are transporting an unloaded firearm. Please check with your local military installation for the most current guidelines prior to arriving since some installations may have specific requirements not listed above, and some changes have been recently authorized by the Department of Defense to relax the rules to a small degree.
The online application process requires a 10-year address history. Military members who move frequently may have accumulated an extensive list of addresses over that period. According to the Illinois State Police, the intent of this requirement is to identify your physical addresses, not your legal residences, in order to facilitate a comprehensive background check. Be sure to have your address history close-at-hand when beginning your application.
The online application form requires your current address to match the address on your driver’s license (DL). So if you qualify to apply as an Illinois resident, or as a resident of one of the “substantially similar states” listed above, but don’t currently live at that address, you will need to use a work-around to complete the application.
There is no official ISP-approved procedure to cover this, so please recognize “your mileage may vary.” The ISP has been accepting address history dates that overlap each other. That is the approach recommended below.
In your application, list the address on your DL as your current address, using a starting date going back to the date you first moved to that location. For some of you that could be your entire duration of military service if using a parent’s address. Enter your current physical address as the most recent in your address history, and proceed back for 10 years. Those dates will likely overlap the dates you entered for your current address.
Although not required, you may also upload a copy of your current orders onto the application site to support your rationale for using overlapping dates. It may also be helpful to provide a letter stating your status as an active duty military member and clarifying that your legal residence is provided as current to successfully complete your application.
If applying as a nonresident from one of the four approved states, you will also need to upload a color photocopy of your state’s concealed carry license and a signed and notarized out-of-state affidavit confirming you meet the qualifications to apply. A template for the affidavit is available on the ISP’s web site. Most military legal offices provide notary public services to military members and dependents free of charge, as do many financial institutions.
Purchasing Firearms and Ammunition
To purchase a firearm or ammunition in Illinois, residents require a Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card. This is a state requirement. Technically, non-residents without a FOID card are allowed to buy handgun ammunition within the state. However, many dealers will not sell to a person who does not have a FOID card. In some locations active duty service members may be able to purchase handgun ammunition by presenting their military ID card, but this option is not extended to spouses or dependents.
Handguns may only be purchased in one’s state of residence, as defined in Federal law and enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE). Military members stationed in Illinois on PCS orders are considered, per BATFE regulations, to be residents of Illinois and can therefore purchase a handgun here. (Note this definition of residency is different than the one used by Illinois to issue a CCL.) To meet state requirements under 430 ILCS 65, Section 5, the service member must still obtain a FOID card to purchase any firearm. Spouses and dependents do not qualify to be treated as residents under this provision.
FOID cards are available at no cost to active duty military members and are valid for 10 years, or until you move away, whichever comes first. You will need to provide a passport-sized photo, a copy of your driver’s license, and a copy of your Orders when submitting your application. Place a statement on the reverse side of the FOID card application form indicating that you are serving on active duty within the state. Passport-sized photos can be obtained at local drug stores for approximately $15, or you can take and print your own.
Non-resident spouses and dependents are not permitted to obtain a FOID card at this time.
“Fanny Pack Carry” or “FOID Transport”
The Illinois “Unlawful Use of Weapons (UUW) and “Aggravated Unlawful Use of Weapons (AUUW)” statutes, codified in 720 ILCS 5/24-1 and 720 ILCS 5/24-2, allow a person to transport or possess an unloaded firearm in a case or container. Prior to the passage of the FCCA, Illinois residents with a FOID card sometimes placed an unloaded firearm in a closed pack or case and a loaded magazine in the same pack or in a separate location, such as a pocket. The firearm could be removed and the magazine inserted, if needed, to defend one’s life. In theory, nonresident military members without an IL CCL can still do this today when in possession of a FOID card.
There are arguments in favor of and against “fanny pack carry,” and some limited legal precedent to support it. However (and remember this is NOT legal advice!), we consider this to be a gray area and recommend military members do not take part in “Fanny Pack Carry,” unless clearly transporting your firearm to a place where you intend to use or store it.
As the saying goes, “You may beat the rap, but not the ride.” While you may ultimately prevail in court, the hassle and impact to your military career could be harmful. Military Judge Advocates often attempt to obtain jurisdiction from local prosecutors, leaving your future in the hands of a Commander during an Article 15 hearing, or to your peers during a Court-Martial. Due to the complexities of the statutes, and the limited amount of case law, you will need to hire an experienced local firearm attorney to help you provide an adequate defense, with no guarantee of success. If you choose to transport in this manner you are indicating acceptance of the fallout and impact to your military career should you be arrested, charged, and possibly convicted.
Madison County covers the region that includes Edwardsville, Granite City, Alton, and Highland. Mr. Tom Gibbons, the State’s Attorney for Madison County, has made it his official policy to allow nonresidents to carry in his county without an Illinois CCL without fear of prosecution. As the senior law enforcement officer in the county, he believes strongly in the Second Amendment and the individual right to self-defense. Consequently, if you are licensed to carry in your home state and abide by Illinois rules regarding prohibited areas, you are free to carry a concealed firearm in Madison County. His policy, originally published in 2013, is still posted on his site. I contacted Mr. Gibbons on Feb 2, 2017 and he confirmed this policy remains in place. A recent attack against a Vietnam veteran in Venice, IL prompted Mr. Gibbons to release this statement which reiterates his views.
Traveling to Other States
Many neighboring states offer reciprocity or recognition to Illinois concealed carry licensees and to holders of permits or licenses from other states. Whether you qualify for an IL CCL or not, obtaining a concealed carry permit or license from another state with widespread reciprocity is beneficial. Many military personnel stationed in Illinois choose to obtain a non-resident license from Florida, Utah, or Arizona. As of this writing, a non-resident Florida license, for example, will allow you to carry a concealed firearm in the neighboring states of Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, and Indiana, along with dozens of other states in the United States. Please visit http://handgunlaw.us for the best and most current compilation of resources on reciprocity and non-resident licensing procedures.
If you choose to fly to your destination, you will find it to be surprisingly easy to take your concealed carry firearm with you. Please note that you cannot take a personal firearm on a military flight, so this only applies to commercial travel. Additionally, if you are traveling on government orders and expect to lodge on base or pass through a military installation with your luggage before checking into your hotel, this will complicate your travel due to the restrictions on possessing and transporting a firearm on federal property as discussed above.
Check with your airline for specific procedures before traveling, and ensure you are allowed to possess and carry your firearm where you are going. Basically, nearly all airlines follow a similar process: Secure your unloaded firearm in a locked case (non-TSA lock for which only you have the key or combination), place it in your luggage, and lock the outside of the luggage with a TSA-approved lock. Pack your ammunition in a box designed for it (such as the original ammo box), but do not leave the ammo in a magazine. When you check in, inform the attendant you wish to declare an unloaded firearm in your checked luggage. You will complete and sign a declaration form confirming your firearm is unloaded, open the suitcase, and place the form on top of your firearm case. Don’t place any stickers or special markings on your suitcase that could reveal its contents. Allow yourself some extra time since some airlines require you to check into a designated counter or will ask you to wait around for 15 minutes or until your baggage clears the screening process. Some may escort you to a separate luggage screening area. At your destination, proceed directly to the luggage carousel to retrieve it.
Official Illinois Concealed Carry Site: https://ispfsb.com
Firearm Concealed Carry Act (430 ILCS 66):
Illinois State Police Administrative Rules:
Firearm Owner’s Identification Card Act (430 ILCS 65):
Multi-State Firearm and Carry Law Summaries: http://handgunlaw.us
Unlawful Use of Weapon Statute (720 ILCS 5/24-1):
Aggravated Unlawful Use of Weapon Statute (720 ILCS 5/24-2):
Illinois Driver License Law for Military and Dependents
Airline Travel with a Firearm (Official TSA Site; also check with your airline):
Basic Pistol and Concealed Carry Training in Southern Illinois: http://www.keepcalmcarry.com
Written by kwc (IL Carry supporting mbr)
with input from others. Last updated Mar 18, 2017